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Marie Claire – The Backlash

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I’ve just logged on to Twitter and have found a few of the ladies I’m following commenting about a controversial Marie Claire post written by Maura Kelly. Naturally I was intrigued and found the offending post. But there was one problem. I was more offended by the comments.

To clarify, firstly the title is terrible – ‘Should “Fatties” Get a Room’? That one probably needed a rewrite. Secondly some of the language and phrasing is simply insensitive – lets put it this way it wouldn’t make it into the magazine.

So now why is this post not as bad as the currently 360 odd commenters are saying…

It is a blog. Yes it is under the Marie Claire logo so more care should have been taken in what was being said. However a blog is somewhere where real people are allowed to release real feelings, real opinions. I personally love reading blogs for this perspective. You’re not going to agree with everything a blogger might have to say but to be honest, as a blogger with a very particular way of writing I would be disappointed if they did. However the venom that this lady has been faced with over the publication of this article is downright savage. Calls for her resignation, people cancelling subscriptions and various hideously barbed insults dominate the board.

“I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.”

This is one of the more ignorant lines from the blog – claiming that it is something all people can control if they put their minds to it is a rash thing to say especially with no evidence to back it up. However is that any worse then some of the mainstream magazines that pick apart Madonna for her over exercising regimes that leave her at the opposite end of the scale?

Now don’t get me wrong – you put an opinion up on the board and you have to face the music but MY GOD. Take a look at these comments that were published after a very personal apology was published and tell me if you think they are fair…

“You are a hateful and bigoted person”
“You’re not a bully… You’re just a wannabe skank who couldn’t make it as an escort because your bones kept injuring the johns”
“Replace every instance of “Fat” (or “obese”, “overweight”, you get the picture) with “Black” (or “African American”, if you prefer) and tell me this idiot and her EDITOR would still have their jobs if it were to see the light of day.”

This brings up a very interesting point about blogs. Recently Nick Robinson stated that he no longer read the comments of his blog as they had already decided to hate/disagree on his writing. Now Mr. Robinson has come across as ignorant through this statement – how is a blog different from a regular piece of journalism without this interaction from the public? – but with a level of reaction like this it must make for tough reading.

Essentially all I want is for people to try and remain objective in their commenting! If you have a genuine problem with the content or what is being said then please share it but please add to the conversation! How are the commenters who immediately condemn this writer for a sharing an opinion (poorly informed as it is) any better? I saw nothing constructive in the comments field. No one was offering anything further to the debate with their venom. It could have been a great opportunity for people to get across valid interesting points on the subject. Why is it so difficult to overcome the mental hurdles of losing weight? What research has been carried out to show this?  Use Marie Claire’s readership to make your voice heard – you’ll embarrass her with your knowledge and open up Marie Claire to a new way of thinking. But no – the only way people saw fit to comment was with hate and bile and I find that awfully depressing. Don’t you?

The Man Who Thought Too Much

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I’m on a South Western train heading from Bracknell to Waterloo. It’s dark and wet. The businessmen I’m commuting with are falling asleep over the Evening Standard. Whether a hard day’s work or sub standard journalism was to blame will remain an unanswered mystery. The voice on the speaker tells me we’re about to arrive in Richmond.

None of this has really got my attention. In fact my attention has been turned to the Asian lady sitting opposite.  I notice that unwittingly my brogues and her cute black laced heels have been touching. Looking up I see she’s noticed the unintentional connection as well. Her eyes land on mine – dark with a hint of grey, quite beautiful. The connection has now become quite intentional. Dressed in a fitted grey suit that matches her eyes everything else has temporarily become white noise.

The driver announces the next station is Clapham Junction. Reality returns and the moment has passed. Now I’m aware of the businessmen nodding off in front of Rooney’s latest revelations, the rain against the window and the fact my shoes are touching those of a complete stranger. I shift my feet perhaps a little swiftly and suddenly we have mobile phones to attend to.

It seems I have been afflicted by a condition that affects many modern Men and Women. Generally we think too much. Evolution (if it even exists) has made us a longer living, but ultimately boring species. We rely upon the so called controversial and inflammatory acts of the new breed of ‘talentless’ celebrities who live the unthinking, care free lives we all secretly wish we could lead. At least some of the time.

If I’d had the courage to do the unthinkable and strike up a conversation with this lady what would have happened? Tidal wave? Earthquake? Would the business men drooling down their shirts have smirked? Maybe all three, maybe none at all. I may have ended up going for a drink discovering she had a love for the films of Guillermo Del Toro, a passion for the Smashing Pumpkins and a dream to one day own a little villa in the South of Italy.

Then again she might have been a lover of High School Musical, the music of Cheryl Cole and a dream to one day have her wedding featured in the pages of OK magazine.

I’ll never know as I’m a Man who thought too much. Are you?

When you were here before,
Couldn’t look you in the eye
I wish I was special
You’re so fuckin’ special

Radiohead, Creep

Stumbeline – Conquering Stage Fright

411 comments

A wiser man than me  once said in order to conquer your fear you must face it. Well I have many fears as I’m sure most of you do too. One that definitely makes the top ten is performing in public. Any of my friends will tell you that in the office or on a night out I like nothing more than to talk crap, be loud and basically be the (unintentional) centre of attention. HOWEVER. When it comes to performing in front of people i.e. I have consciously asked that your attention is focussed completely and utterly upon me, I freeze like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights. I have crippling panic attacks.

The thing is, I love playing the guitar. I also (privately) enjoy singing. This is not to say I am any good. However on the off chance that people may want to listen to me on an open mic night I don’t want to be hindered by a stupid irrational fear hampering me when asked.

Enough of my gibber gabber. I’ve taken the first step towards rockstardom and purchased a video camera. Below is my first recording. It’s by a band called the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s a little depressing but I love it.

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New Year’s Eve 2009 – Hindsight

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Harnessing the power of hindsight – the perception of the significance and nature of events after they have occurred – is, considered to be one of the key pillars to a successful life. I’m struggling with it to be honest. Lessons that should have been learnt weren’t. Attitudes that should most definitely have changed haven’t. This lack of comprehension was brought harshly to light on the 31st December 2009…

31st December 2009
4:00pm

OK so work’s wrapped up, I’m on my way back to Islington and my housemates have got the Buds on ice to celebrate our first New Year in London. A cheeky heel click is in order before boarding the Piccadilly line at Leicester Square…

4:30pm

I bounce through the door and before the man bag has stopped swinging on it’s hook a delightfully cold Budweiser is thrust into my hand. King of beers indeed. Ching ching and here’s to a glorious New Year! After a hard (ok not that hard…) days graft that first swig was dangerously good…

4:45pm

Guests are set to arrive at 7:00pm for an impromptu gathering before rendezvousing down in Angel but what the puck let’s get this show on the road! Break out the Guess Who and let’s get this drinking train a rolling. The rules are simple – questions are asked regarding the behaviourisms and life choices of the various characters rather than their physical attributes. For example, ‘Does he or she look like a rapist?’. Based upon the answer given by your opponent you have to eliminate some faces. A stupid game and one I proved poor at. Before I know it four bottles of beer are racked up beside me and I’m getting that pleasant warm buzz that promotes the attitude that all ideas are great ideas. The forbidden fruits had been tasted…

5:30pm

“Ring of fire?! I was going to suggest some kind of sponge like food to cope with the alcohol but your idea is so much better! Break out the cards!”. The cards are fanned out quicker than you can say ‘Sir Jack’ and the game commences. And did I mention there’s just three of us in this particular circle? On a night in which my self destruction was surely fated, three shots were quickly consumed (Morgan’s Spiced Rum – delightful), washed down with another 4 beers.

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire

I should probably take a breather right now yes? Don’t be a pussy…

7:00pm

Yay! Our esteemed guests have arrived! And, pray tell who is this tasty little scrumpet? Why it’s my housemates sister and I tell you, beer goggles aside, she is FINE. “Is this seat taken?” she asks me “Not anymore” I reply whilst ensuring the guns are on show. “Drink?” she asks. “Absolutely” I exclaim sensing some common ground. Quicker than you can say David Blaine a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka and Lime appears in her hand. “When I take a shot you take a shot” not a question – that was an order. “Whatever you say” I reply. This’ll be over quickly – she looks far too clean cut to be much of a drinker. Couple of shots at most…

8:00pm

My last concious thought of the evening? The despair of losing a drinking game to an attractive petite blonde girl? The prospect of waking up tomorrow feeling like a bag of crap? Or was it how hindsight has betrayed me once more? I don’t really know – all I can tell you is that just after 8:00pm on December the 31st 2009, my New Year ended.

January 1st 2010
3:30am

Where the fuck am I? Why does everything hurt? Why am I still fully dressed? Choking back on a chunk of vomit (why does it have chunks?!) someone begins to rustle beside me – it appears I’ve been playing the role of the little spoon. For a split second I contemplate the thought that it’s my housemates sister, but then the big spoon begins to talk. “I want you so bad” he says. Wait something’s wrong here…HOLY SHIT I’m being spooned by a GUY?! And what did he just say??! My body forgets it’s broken long enough for me to combat roll out of bed wrapped in my duvet “Get the FUCK out of my room!” I scream “Dick – I wasn’t going to do anything!” he says on his way out.

Big Spoon, Little Spoon

Big Spoon, Little Spoon

With a sense of lynchian surreality I crawl back into my bed still too drunk to really process what just happened and mercifully fall back to sleep…

10:00am

I awake to discover myself in an agony I never thought possible. My bedroom wall and the neighbouring toilet is covered in an orange spray that smells suspiciously of shame and hindsight. My blood is a toxic poison, my bones are full of needles and my head has the density of lead – Crappy New Year.

And then I remember I was almost sexually abused by a man. Fanfuckingtastic. Speaking of which where did he go?

The morning that follows is a nightmarish combination of vomit and paralysis baked in a pit of my own self loathing. In 8 seasons of 24, CTU agent Jack Bauer has never felt this shit. Even when he was officially dead for 20 seconds. I stagger around like one of Romero’s zombie horde scavenging for vitamins and sugars that will bring me back to the living. My own mother wouldn’t recognise the hollowed and haunted monstrosity that has replaced me.

But just as my exhausted mind and body were about to give up a new metaphorical dawn rose as (touch wood) it always does. I’ve found the hangover food to bring me back to life (copious amounts of satsumas) and the New Year roast is in the oven. Tom Hanks performing Chopsticks in everyone’s third favourite film from the 80’s aids my recovery further.

The eve of 2010 is already feeling like a bad dream – and they’re never as horrible in the comforting light of day are they?

Now did someone say there was some spiced rum left…

“We never change, do we? No, no
We never learn, do we?”

Coldplay, We Never Change

How To Lose A Girl In One Date

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I’m no lothario but I’ve had the chance to date a few women since moving to London, mostly thanks to number swapping in dodgy Clapham based venues such as the legendary Infernos or the affectionatly titled Slag and Bison.

They’ve been, in general, inoffensive affairs, going through the motions of establishing some common ground, but 9 times out of 10 I’d already decided that for whatever reason(s), be it physical attraction, personality or a Geordie accent (I would honestly turn Cheryl Cole down), I wasn’t going to be spending any more of my dollar getting to know this girl.

This probably makes me a prick – but fear not, karma was ready to balance the scales once more.

I met a lady, who we’ll refer to as ‘Ruby’ for the sake of anonymity, at a recent after work function and things were progressing nicely. Unusually for me she ticked the three most important boxes – she was funny, talkative and attractive.  Fuelled by Presseco I was on fire (at least in my head) and by some fortune I managed to procure her phone number.

We arranged to meet in the tasteful setting of Highgate for some wine in the park – a nice change of pace to central London bars, another tick in the box – but after being rudely interrupted by a rain shower we headed back to Ruby’s place where I had been invited for toad in the hole with her housemates.

The housemates proved to be friendly (ever so slightly crazy in one case) and refreshingly eagar to talk about pretty much anything – I quickly settled in. Sexual escapades were shared with wilful abandon, former boyfriends evaluated. I realised that a few guys had sat around this same table but as the banter continued I got the feeling I’d gotten further than most.

Frank the Tank

Frank the Tank

A delicious toad in the hole has been consumed and suddenly Ruby and I are on our own – we settle down to watch one of my all time favourite funny films, Old School. Just one problem – she’s on one couch and I’m on the other. Hmmmmmm I suddenly realise that I’m on a date with a fit girl and a panic I haven’t felt for sometime begins to grip me. My confidence evaporates and I question everything. Am I laughing to loud at Frank the Tank? Why am I wearing this T-Shirt!? I don’t have any guns to show off! Should I be sitting next to Ruby? Stop fidgeting on the sofa and do SOMETHING!

The DVD player begins to skip – I leap to my feet and give it a useless tap opening a window of opportunity – I squeeze on to Ruby’s sofa. Hmm I don’t think that was particularly welcome but I’m under her blanket and that’s the main thing – she’ll warm to me I’m sure.

She’s beginning to look bored and I’m trying my best not to fidget.

All of a sudden I need to go and drain the lizard but I’m under the blanket and moving would be making to much of  a nuisance. “It’s alright” I tell myself “I’m a big boy and I can hang on till the end”. Ten minutes pass and all I can think about is the toilet and I can tell that Ruby’s getting uncomfortable. I decide that I can’t take it anymore and get up to go when one of her housemates takes the bathroom. CRAPBAGS. I’ve allowed my body to believe it will be soon relieved of it’s burden and realise I may be in a spot of bother.

To try and cover this predicament to a clearly concerned and worried Ruby I do the first thing that comes into my head.

I pretend I have cramp in my leg.

At least I have an excuse to walk around like a loon and try and take my mind off my screaming bladder. Another ten minutes pass (how long do you need in a fucking shower!) and a Ruby who has indefinitely decided to never see this strange man again has found me some tiger balm – “rub this on your leg” she says “it’ll help relieve the cramp”. Right you are Ruby – I apply copious amounts of tiger balm to a leg that doesn’t really have cramp running up and down it. I suppose it kills another minute or two.

I can’t take anymore – enough’s enough and I race to the locked bathroom door and began to bang upon it like a mad man. “what are you doing?!” exclaims the third housemate (looking as concerned as Ruby now but that has ceased to concern me). “I need the toilet!” resisting the urge to lose all sense of self control one more time. “There’s one downstairs!” she replies. I throw myself down the stairs and I can tell you that was some sweet relief.

Harry Potter's Time Turner

Needless to say the ambience isn’t the best – not even Will Ferrel can save me now. I drag it out for another half an hour but finally call it quits. An awkward goodbye (“we should sort something out soon?” I say with possibly a hint of desperation and hating myself for it) leads to thoughts of Harry Potter’s time turner and what I’d do for one.

Walking down Holloway Road, I think back and laugh – I still live in London, I’m young(ish) and there’ll be other Ruby’s.

The scales just needed to be balanced…

“Let it never be said, the romance is dead”
Ruby – The Kaiser Chiefs

Going Solo

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Today was one of those rarest of days – a day where you are naturally in step with the world.

I have taken a walk along the wooded Parkland route towards Alexandra Palace, revelling in the rustling of tree branches, the smell of flowers and foliage found only in the heart of a glorious British Summer and the nods shared with fellow wanderers enjoying the unexpected peace and tranquility offered by this four mile stretch in London.

Parkland Route Walk - Crouch End

Refreshed and energised I’ve hit the gym, even taking the time to do a few crunches – an aspect of my training I do my best to ignore most of the time. Not today.

Upon my return I’m inspired to whip up a feast of roast parsnips, carrots and potatos, glazed with olive oil, rosemary and thyme served with some butter roasted turkey and sage and onion stuffing. A tasty shake up to my usual Sunday fare of chicken breast and frozen veg mix.

To finish I take in Shrek Forever After at my local Cineworld – a Film with a character and personality that fits perfectly with the day.

Who did I share this day with? Me, myself and I. Through no concious effort I have not spoken to a soul till 8pm this evening.

Is it strange that one of the most purely enjoyable days I’ve had for some time has been spent entirely on my own? Should I be worried that I’m an anti social outcast? Here in the UK there is a popular belief that going out to the cinema, drinking in a bar or eating a sit down meal should be performed in groups. Where does this ideology stem from? Why is it so important to share all our experiences?

Our friends across the Atlantic, who we so regularly emulate within our social discourses are at odds with this particular mindset. It’s deemed perfectly acceptable to enjoy a drink in a bar after work or frequent a multiplex for the latest money spinner from Hollywood alone. Maybe we Brits take the word ‘alone’ too literally? Maybe it’s all down to advertising and media positioning?

Whatever the reason, if going solo on occasion labels me as abnormal I’ll happily pay the price for a day like today.

“Now I walk alone, I walk alone, Living blissfully”
Oleander – I Walk Alone

The Road Goes Ever On and On…

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There is a question that needs to be asked before starting any blog.

What is it’s purpose?

If you can bear with me I will start from the beginning.

For the majority of my childhood and early adult years I lived in a tiny Suffolk village called Peasenhall. As the crow flies you’re talking 15 minutes drive to the nearest small town (Framlingham) and just under an hour to the nearest metropolis (Ipswich he says with a grimace…). One word summed up my surroundings

Isolated

Don’t get me wrong it is a beautiful part of the world in a Hobbiton esque way but unfortunately it shares other characteristics with that particular corner of Middle Earth. Most pointedly, a sleepiness suited to the majority of Peasnhall’s residents (people over 70 and my parents) but not really for me. “We have to get out of the shire” whispers Frodo to Merry- I hear you on that one buddy.

Sixth Form kicks in together with UCAS applications. University Prospectuses quickly become the rope on which my dreams of escape hang upon. However I have always been a relatively cautious individual – never run before you can walk. Applications were sent to the likes of Lincoln, Winchester and Plymouth. Hardly comparable to the Leed’s, Birmingham’s and (whisper it) London’s of the World but a definite step in the right direction.

My application to Lincoln is accepted and the first day of term fast approaches. With not a few arguments with the mother over such trivial matters as healthy eating, locking doors and alcohol abuse I begin to truly understand that I’m breaking out. No more reliance on parents for lifts to pubs. Fancy a Dominoes? Well just pick up the phone – they’re just down the road.

The day soon arrives and my optimism is seriously tempered once the car is packed – what the fuck am I doing? As I’m sure at least some of you can attest to, the journey to University is a rollercoaster of emotions. Fear. Excitement. Trepidation. They combine to make a thoroughly unpleasant yet exhilarating mix – to this day I have never been so aware of everything around me. I arrive at my apartment – the interior of which resembles a prison cell, quickly setting my already fragile mother into tears. It should be noted that my father showed little to no emotion God bless him – and the first person I meet is an attractive, petite, blond girl clearly as nervous as I am. “Where have you come from?” I ask. “Kesgrave, near Ipswich” she replies. And that was it – from that moment on I slipped in to University life, living away from home and independence with not a twinge of homesickness. A new and improved version of me was born.

I quickly adapted to a lifestyle of Carling, chasing tail and essays on British Social Realism (in that order). Bar one or two particularly brutal hangovers I was having the time of my life. But even at the end of first year I begin to feel something uncomfortably familiar from my years in Suffolk. Not isolation as such but a growing sense of boredom, routine and mundaneness. I wanted something bigger than Lincoln.

Anyway University went by in a flash as it does for all that attend and I quickly found myself back in Suffolk. Penniless and drained from what could be considered an excessive marathon of post University partying I found myself in a telesales role for the local paper. Disaster. I was surrounded by people in their mid to late twenties happy to sit in a rut. At the risk of sounding conceited I knew I was better than this and began plotting the escape plan.

Media degree in hand I begin to search for those elusive graduate roles. And how elusive those little bastards were. One thing became clear in this search for employment. The roles I wanted were almost exclusively based in London.

London…

For those born and bred in our capital you may scoff at the awe I felt towards it but remember my upbringing. Equal to the likes of New York, Milan and Tokyo we weren’t talking about small fry here like the humble home of my former University. However do not mistake awe for fear – I knew I was meant for London one way or another.

A year passes. The recession is really making my job at the paper a bitch, I have a manager increasing targets on a daily basis and still no graduate roles on the horizon. My social life involves getting drunk in the same bars in Ipswich and collapsing on my team leaders floor dreaming of ruts. Like Frodo I seemed to be facing an insurmountable task.

But as Frodo had Samwise to help carry the weight of the ring I had University housemates.

One day in May I receive a message from one of said housemates – “contact this guy – possible graduate opportunity but be quick”. Spurred on by the possibility of a hot lead I whip an email over and things begin to happen very very quickly…

A quick maths and english test completed and I have the invite to attend an assessment day. The address – 125 Shaftesbury Avenue. This was it – I could feel it in my bones. I swotted up on the role as much as was humanly possible in the two days I had to prepare. I arrive at the office (8th floor and views of Big Ben – holy shit) and discover that 3 candidates have inexplicably dropped out. It’s just myself and another lady. I tried to remain calm and succeeded to a point. The day went by in a whirl of group exercises and interviews and I came out with only one thought in my mind. I would literally kill for this job.

I’m on the train back to Suffolk already missing the hustle of Cambridge Circus when my phone rings. The recruitment consultant tries a lame attempt at building some kind of suspense before telling me they’d offered me the role.

I’d climbed to the top of Mount Doom, thrown the ring into the fiery chasm below and found myself contemplating undoubtedly the biggest step in my life.

Within a month I’ve sold the car, packed in the sales job and had one last celebratory night out in the Swich. My Uni housemate who changed my life with one text message has offered me temporary refuge in Balham whilst the hunt for a home goes on and my new life in London begins.

And here at last we come to the purpose of this blog. Over the past 24 years I have continued to find out more about myself and what I want from life. For now and the foreseeable future that revolves around seizing the opportunities. Upon entering London I promised myself to make the very most of what it had to offer and for better or for worse this blog will chronicle these experiences.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”